Showing posts with label vintage suitcase. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vintage suitcase. Show all posts

Thursday, February 17, 2022

DIY Vintage Suitcase Coffee Table

Vintage Suitcase Coffee Table

I have loved old chests and trunks since my childhood.  Now that I qualify as vintage myself, I take an even greater delight in finding, and transforming, items that have a story older than my own.  Perhaps it is nostalgia.  Whatever it is, I am always on the lookout for something with an interesting history.

This DIY project actually began in the aisles of my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (a nonprofit I enthusiastically support).  As a rescuer at heart, I couldn't let a battered metal traveling case sit there abandoned and unwanted.  There was no doubt in my mind that an item with plenty of mileage on it had interesting stories to tell, that it had more than proven its worth, and that it should be given the chance to be useful once more.  I laid down my five dollars and started imagining what that chest could become.

These metal trunks were in use during the 1940s and 1950s.

Any search on Pinterest will show you that DIYers are pretty gung-ho about converting antique trunks, chests, and suitcases into all kinds of cool furniture pieces.  You can also find a number of these reclaimed treasures being sold on Etsy.  This is a popular trend with staying power.  I can't imagine these vintage pieces ever going out of vogue.

Top of Trunk - Mostly Surface Scratches in the Paint


Bottom of Trunk Had Seen Better Days


Inside of Case - Paper Lining - Perfume Spills

You can see from the "before" pics that I had my work cut out for me.  As is common with these old metal cases, there was a good deal of rust to contend with, and the inside paper lining was spotted in places (smelling, thankfully, of perfume).  The first order of business was to remove the surface rust with abrasive pads.  I didn't want to lose the character and patina of age, so I was careful to remove only the top layer of corrosion.  A person can ruin a good antique by doing too much restoration.


Removing Rust - Power Drill Abrasive Pad

Dremel Abrasive Buff - Perfect in Tight Spots

The rust had created a distressed metal effect that artisans work hard to achieve.


Trunk Lid Primed With Spray Paint

To deal with the minor stains inside the trunk, I painted over the paper lining.  I could have attempted to strip out the paper, but the likelihood of getting all of it removed without creating a bigger mess was too great.  I knew the primer would not only cover the stains, but would make the trunk smell clean and fresh.  Once the paint coats were dry, I sprayed a clear matte acrylic sealer over them.  


New Liner - Tissue Paper Decoupage

In determining a decorative finish for the interior, I considered several options: stenciling a design, applying a decoupage treatment, lining with fabric, using decorative stick-on tiles, or inserting a thin cork liner. I decided to go with a lovely tissue paper decoupage (using a matte Mod Podge finish).

Towards the end of the project, I changed my mind about the exterior finish. Originally, my intent was to simply sand the finish and leave it with a wire brushed finish. That would have worked for my rustic cabin decor. However, once I decided to sell this piece, I felt a freshly painted finish would be more appealing to potential buyers. I used Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint (in a neutral linen white) and then gave the trim a light distressing with fine grit sand paper.

After Pic - Suitcase Coffee Table Transformation

I could see the finish line in sight as I attached four hairpin legs to the bottom of the trunk.  Because the metal skin on the case is very thin, I reinforced the bottom interior of the trunk (essentially creating a false bottom).  This provided the added stability and thickness needed to bolt the legs securely to the case.

Would I tackle a project like this again?  Absolutely!  It's not easy to walk away from a vintage item needing some TLC.  Besides, these chests are iconic and incredibly versatile.  Not only will someone gain a unique conversational piece, but this suitcase is a great place to store things like remote controls, or dreams of future travel.

This coffee table and I now share our own unique story.  Sometimes, in quiet moments, I feel transported as I imagine where it has previously been, what it carried, and who might have packed and unpacked it time and time again.  I find myself composing little vignettes about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Case.  Pretty good entertainment for the price of a five-dollar admission. 









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